GABA Genes May Play Significant Role in Schizophrenia

The reason why some people are more prone to psychiatric conditions, like depression or schizophrenia, may have to do with genes associated with GABA - a neurotransmitter that is closely linked to mood.

Scientists from Cardiff University found that genetic variations - or mutations - of the genes associated with GABA could relate to how stress hormones function and, therefore, the manifestation of mental illness.

The study included 11,500 people with schizophrenia and 16,500 people without the disorder, which represented the largest sample size ever analyzed for this type of genetic research.

'Total burden' of mutations is most important

Previous research has attempted to identify a single gene responsible for schizophrenia, but the current study suggests that "total burden" of mutations that affect GABA and glutamate signaling is the most accurate way to predict risk.

"Perturbation of these processes is likely to have a widespread impact on brain function," the authors wrote in Neuron.

Drugs that target the functional pathways shared by these mutated genes across different disorders - like autism, depression and epilepsy - could help researchers understand how to target the right GABA receptors linked to neurodevelopmental disorders.

"Results of preclinical trials in several [neurodevelopmental] disorders have shown encouraging results and raised hopes for treatment in patients," the authors concluded.

Source: EurekAlert!
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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